Where the experts holiday: Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to see before you die
Patricia Schultz, author of the newly revised #1 New York Times bestseller 1000 Places to See Before You Die, talks travel
What do you like to do on holiday?
What fills my days is always dictated by the destination. Big cities usually mean great museums, galleries and various attractions from an afternoon river cruise or exploring a cluster of antique stores, to enjoying views from observatory decks. Small towns mean getting lost down back streets and finding a great local place for lunch. A countryside getaway may promise great trekking, scenic drives, tracking down a hidden waterfall or ancient hot springs. And islands, of course, mean glorious (and hopefully empty) beaches and wonderful just-caught seafood dinners at sunset.
Where did you last go?
Within two recent weeks, I squeezed in Mexico City (I had forgotten how beautiful it is and what a great food and cultural scene it has), Rio de Janeiro (certainly there exists no more beautiful urban scene than what unfolds from up at Corcovado, beneath the out-stretched arms of the Christ the Redeemer statue) and Buenos Aires (beautiful people fill the steak houses arriving at 10pm and later - after that it’s time to hit the tango clubs, of which there are too many to count).
Do you know where you’re going this year?
I’m taking the TransCantabrico train across the northern coast of Spain, from the Basque city of San Sebastian west to Santiago de Compostela. I’m hoping to tag on a few days at the beginning in the wonderful port city of Barcelona. In the fall I am re-visiting Slovenia and Croatia – two favorites from when I first visited them as part of Yugoslavia.
Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite and why?
Italy shall always be my favorite destination – for unparalleled art (Michelangelo’s David, the Vatican Museums, the Archeological Museum in Naples), natural beauty (the Amalfi Coast, the Dolomite Mountains, the island of Capri), man-made beauty (St. Mark’s Basilica, the Renaissance palaces of Florence, the hill towns of Tuscany, the Greek temples across Sicily and Venice, an other-worldly city built on water), and food (just about everywhere!). Sometimes it’s just enough to sit in an al fresco cafe with a late afternoon aperitivo and people watch.
Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
I haven’t been to so very very (very) many places, all jamming my ‘Short List’. If I could get on a plane tomorrow, it would be to go to the Antarctica. I have never heard anyone who returned, speak in anything less than superlatives.
In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
By now, just about everything has been included in travel guides! The San Juan Islands off the coast of Seattle in the Pacific North West state of Washington are very special, as it the rocky, rugged coastline of Maine up at the northeast border with Canada – you can see it from a historic wooden schooner ship (for a few hours or a few days) that serves fresh lobster dinners (for which these waters are known) under the stars.
How do you plan your holiday?
I love to research, and spend countless hours getting lost online. I often buy at least two guidebooks and sometimes five or six6 (tho only two come with me). Each guidebook gives a different angle and opinion – and it is interesting to see the variety of restaurants and hotels that some authors prefer, and others do not. When I arrive, I’ll have an idea of how most days will be spent, but I purposefully leave afternoons or days open to serendipity – they say it is the best tour guide.
How often do you go away?
That’s hard to say: sometimes a trip is weeks long, other times only 48 hours. But it is safe to say that I am away more than I am home. But since ‘home’ for me is New York, I am always happy to return. New Yorkers are only half kidding when we call it the centre of the universe!
Who do you travel with?
My significant other is a great travelling companion – he shares my love for every wonder and surprise we stumble upon, and is calmingly patient with complications and flight delays. But I am also happy to travel alone – it is a very different experience and can be even more rewarding.
Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
I live in a city that has always been a magnet for tourism, and visitors have always come in huge numbers. In general I think the US will see greater numbers of Chinese (and Asians in general), Russians and Brazilians – all of whom are projected to spend more money on travel as their economies continue to flourish – and I think they will start travelling more beyond the usual triangle of New York, San Francisco and Disneyworld. Beyond the big cities is where the heart and soul of America can be found – in our small towns and exceptional national parks.
1,000 Places to See Before You Die (second edition) by Patricia Schultz is out now, published by Workman at £14.99.